Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Preview: NL East

We're doing MLB Division previews all week. Today it's the NL East.

The NL East: Feel the excitement!

Jacob Rosales referenced it in today's podcast: The NL East is the most fun division in baseball. The Drama is hard to match in any other division. Even in the AL East, you don't get fans that are this passionate about their teams.

Let's take the Mets and Phillies for example. Both fanbases feel slighted as the ugly stepchild, compared to their more popular sibling, the Yankees and Eagles respectively. So as a result, they really really want their team to win, so they can prove they belong.

For years, the Mets and Phils have duked it out for either a division crown or a WC spot. Before that, it was always about Mets and Braves. Sometimes its Braves and Marlins. The NL East is a very underrated division.

Since it's underrated, I'll start with the most underrated team in the group.

Marlins... I tell you, that infield is great. They can't field worth a bleep, but their bats are electric. Every infielder on that team hit 29+ HRs. Every one! Mike Jacobs at 1st had 32, Dan Uggla at 2nd had 32, Jorge Cantu at 3rd had 29, and who could forget Hanley Ramirez at Short with his 33 HRs.

Honestly, people who tell you "The AL has teams with much better lineups" is not paying attention. You try and find me another team where almost half the lineup is hit 29+ HRs last year. Unfortunately, Mike Jacobs was traded to the Royals this offseason, so the lineup will have a little less pop... Howver, in return they got Leo Nunez a reliever that could assuage the loss of Kevin Gregg. Frankly even without Nunez, ditching Gregg is addition by subtraction... he really folded down the stretch last year, Gregg did. The rotation is again young and inexperienced, but I trust the Fish's farm system here.

Nationals... OK, so they have Adam Dunn. OK, so they have Guzman and Zimmerman. Ok, ok... but they still have almost no pitching... and even as lame as Jon Rauch was last year he was still serviceable, yet they sent him to Arizona mid-season. Other than the big three, you get an awful lineup: Nick Swisher anyone? Lastings Milledge? No need to waste any more time breaking down this squad.

Braves... here comes another one of those "it depends" teams. It depends on how well the Braves have organized their rotation and bullpen. They now have Derek Lowe, who's been pretty good over the last decade. Offensively they'll be ok, but not great. How much longer can Chipper Jones keep up his great hitting? Will Garret Anderson (picked up from the Angels) be a waste in the outfield? The surest things on the Braves so far are catcher Brian McCann, second baseman Kelly Johnson, and Escobar. Of the three, McCann is the only one with good power. The biggest liability for Atlanta is still the bullpen. They'll be in most games if nothing else.

Now for the real showdown...

Mets... A very good team that could have been great had they had the nuts to sign Manny Ramirez this offseason. He was ready to go too, all the Mets had to do was offer a solid 2-3 year deal for about 23+ mil per, guaranteed money. That said, their lineup is still quite nice, with David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, and Carlos Beltran all ready to go on cue. Best of all, they *finally* did something about that bullpen. Granted, they overpaid for two guys who I think are overrated i.e. JJ Putz and Frankie Rodriguez, but the odds are they'll be good, not great. Quite frankly, "good not great" is a MAJOR improvement for the Mets bully... this is the team that blew game after game in September two years in a row. They had to do something. I see the Mets being a serious contender not just for the East, but for the whole NL.

Phils... The Defending World Series champions. A now weaker lineup without Pat Burrell. I suppose they will still be very solid, but it really depends on how well Jayson Werth can hold up. Honestly, he had a career year that came out of nowhere. What are the odds Werth stays that healthy again? How will the Phils do without Chase Utley for a big chunk of the season? Whats interesting is that the Phils also signed Raul Ibanez to take burrell's slot. Actually, Ibanez is a very good hitter and cheaper than Burrell to boot. So all told, the Phils will still have a good offense. The only thing is, the pitching won't be anywhere near as good. Scumbag extraordinaire Brett Myers is going to get his ASS kicked his season. Jamie Moyer, now 956 years old, won't be much better.
Reliever JC Romero is suspended for the first 50 games. Lets face it: the pitching staff pitched way over their heads last year, and won't repeat it in 2009. If they win 90+ games, I'll be very surprised.

Dave's Take: This one appears wide-open on the surface, but not really. First the easy ones. Washington and Philly are both out of the running for the division. The Phils might get a WC, but post-championship hangover plus other things will pretty much bog them down all year. That leaves Atlanta, Florida and the Mets. Gotta be the Mets. Granted, their rotation is not proven for anything, but they're mostly young now save Santana. I like him, Perez, and Maine, provided they're healthy. This is the Mets division to lose. Lets go Mets to win the East this year, with the Phils or Braves close behind.

Braves (Phils and Braves will have close to the same record)

Tomorrow... ohh boy! The AL Central. I can't wait!!!!

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